TEHRAN, May 25 (Reuters/ AP): Iran successfully tested a 2,000 km-range ballistic missile on Thursday, Iranian state media said, two days after the chief of Israel's armed forces raised the prospect of "action" against Tehran over its nuclear programme.
Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, says its weapons are capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the region.
Despite opposition from the United States and European countries, Tehran has said it would further develop its "defensive" missile programme.
"Our message to Iran's enemies is that we will defend the country and its achievements. Our message to our friends is that we want to help regional stability," said Iranian Defence Minister Mohammadreza Ashtiani. He said the missile could be prepared for launch in a short period.
"One of the prominent characteristics of this missile is its ability to evade radar detection and penetrate enemy air defense systems, thanks to its low radar signature," the general told journalists. "This missile has the capability to utilize various warheads for different missions."
State TV broadcast what it said was footage of an upgraded version of Iran's Khoramshahr 4 ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,243 miles) that can carry a 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) warhead.
State News agency IRNA said the missile was called Kheibar, a reference to a Jewish castle overrun by Muslim warriors in the early days of Islam.
The Khorramshahr-4 is named after an Iranian city that was the scene of heavy fighting during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iraq seized the city in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan at the start of the war, but Iran retook it over a year later.
During the event, loudspeakers blared the "Symphony of the Epic of Khorramshahr," an orchestral composition marking Iranian soldiers ending the Iraqi siege of the city during the war.
Tehran created its ballistic missile program after suffering through Iraqi Scud missile attacks in the conflict - and as a hedge against its Western-armed neighbors as embargoes have kept it from accessing modern attack aircraft.
The missile also is called Kheibar, after a Jewish fortress conquered by the Muslims in the 7th century - in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Regional tensions likely played a role in Iran's missile display Thursday. A miniature example of Jerusalem's golden Dome of the Rock on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy site in both Islam and Judaism that Jews call the Temple Mount, stood next to the mobile launcher.
Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognise, sees Iran as an existential threat. Iran says its ballistic missiles are an important deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States, Israel and other potential regional adversaries.
On Tuesday, the top Israeli general raised the prospect of "action" against Iran as efforts by six world powers to revive Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since last September amid growing Western fears about Tehran's accelerating nuclear advances.
The nuclear agreement, which Washington ditched in 2018, imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities that extended the time Tehran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to.